(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
The news of US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) imposing a penalty of $ 325,000 on Dow Chemicals for making improper payments to Indian officials for registration of some of the pesticides of its subsidiary, has come as a shockwave to the Union agriculture ministry. The ministry officials have reportedly told the media that it came as a surprise to them and defended by saying that a stringent regulation in the country was in place.
SEC’s move might have shocked the agriculture ministry, but it has once again exposed the sham regulatory authority in the country and integrity of the officials. It is a national shame. The fraud was not unearthed here but in US. The payments of up to Rs 8.8 million were reported to have been made by De-Nocil, the then subsidiary of Dow Chemicals for getting various regulatory clearances for Dow's pesticides business in India during 1996 and 2001.
One senior official in the Central Insecticides Board of India had reportedly received around 1.6 million rupees for registering Dow's pesticides in India during the said period and while state officials had received the remaining amount for licensing related to distribution and sale of these pesticides.
Dow Chemicals is also the owner of Union Carbide Corporation, which was responsible for the Bhopal genocide and the subsequent poisoning of thousands of lives that continues to this day due to contamination from tonnes of toxic chemicals lying around in the factory premises.
Dow Chemicals to this day has not come forward to accept its pending liabilities in this case even as valuable lives of the people of Bhopal are being lost, while thousands of others continue to suffer.
Dow Chemicals continues to sell in India some Class I pesticides like Monocrotophos, which are banned in most of the developed world years ago. Their flagship product Dursban (chlorpyrifos) is banned for domestic use in the US, Dow's home country. The company has no qualms using double standards for this product between American citizens and Indians and continues to make money out of it in India.
Dow's dishonest practices have been highlighted a number of times by many farmers and activist groups, notably by Bhopal disaster survivors. Dow Corning, a joint venture of Dow Chemicals, obtained regulatory approval from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board for setting up a factory near Pune despite submitting a map of one of its factories in the USA instead of a local site map as required by Indian law.
Dow recommends several of its pesticides for crops and uses not recognized by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee [CIBRC]. This is a blatant violation of the Insecticides Act.
The entire episode brings to the fore the serious and unacceptable shortcomings related to pesticide regulation. Not only the regulation of pesticides is now being questioned, but also of other sectors, particularly the regulation and approval of genetically modified (GM) crops.
The regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has been very fast in a period of three years in giving approval to a number of Bt cotton seeds of different companies. They have been eager to place India in the global map as a “mega Biotech” country, not caring for the heavy losses being incurred by farmers on failure of Bt cotton in various part of the country.
The Supreme Court in respond to a PIL has banned the fresh approval of GM crop trials, till the case is finally decided. US court has ordered for a review of the approval of GM crops in that country. All these are the writings on the wall for the government to tighten up its regulations and punish the guilty before it is too late
(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)